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Goshen church group stranded in Haiti amid violent protests

GOSHEN, Ind. – More than a dozen members of a local church are stranded in Haiti while on a service trip because of violent protests in the country’s capital.

Thirteen high school aged students and five adults from River Oaks Community Church are safe, but stuck in Haiti. The church’s pastor and parents are worried, but believe faith will help everyone get through it.

“I wanted to find out a way to get there and get them, which isn’t possible,” said Judy Pollock.

A parent’s worst nightmare is reality for Goshen mother Judy Pollock. Two of her four children are stranded in a country more than 1,700 miles away.

“I don’t want my kids sitting in a foreign country scared,” said Pollock.

On July 2nd, 18 members of River Oaks Community Church flew to La Digue, Haiti for a seven day service trip.  

“They were really excited to get to play with the different kids at the different orphanages,” said Pollock.

“They’ve had a great week down there, doing everything they’ve set out to do,” said River Oaks pastor Drew Richey.

But over the weekend, that changed. Pastor Drew said he received a phone call on Saturday morning. The trip leader explained due to violent protests in Port-Au-Prince over a 50 percent increase in gas prices, the group couldn’t return to Goshen on Monday like planned.

“This is one of those difficult moments we would never ask for ourselves,” said Richey.

Pastor Drew said the teens and adults are in a secure compound more than an hour away from the protests. Communication is limited, but Pollock said her kids and the others seemed to be in good spirits.   

“They’re really positive and upbeat and it’s not phasing them at all, so I’m really proud of them,” said Pollock.

She added it doesn’t hurt to have God on their side.

“Whenever I get a little wigged out in my own mind, if I can just get myself into prayer, I think I feel a peace come over me,” said Pollock. “I’m hoping the kids are learning that too. Know that God is in charge and he’s got a plan for all of this.”

The group is scheduled to come home on Thursday, but that could change if protests continue.

“While this is never anything we want for ourselves, I think it’s important to find the ways that we can be grateful for the fact that we do live where we live, that our team is safe where they’re at,” said Richey.

Pastor Drew said he doesn’t think this should scare other groups from going on service trips. He added that people in these countries need help and we shouldn’t let on bad experience ruin all of the good that comes out of these trips.

River Oaks Community Church and other members came together to pray for the group's safety Sunday night. 

The Associated Press reports there are several U.S. church groups stranded in Haiti as the protests over the Haitian government’s attempt to raise fuel prices continue. 

Many flights have been canceled, and the U.S. Embassy is urging Americans to stay in place and not leave for an airport unless they know their flight is leaving the country.

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